Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2021

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra has announced its 2021 season, which will feature three new commissions by Australian composers Gordon Kerry, William Barton and Sebastian Lingane, and a focus on the orchestra’s own musicians as soloists – though there is a conspicuously low number of female composers.

Queensland Symphony OrchestraQueensland Symphony Orchestra double bassist Justin Bullock, Concertmaster Warwick Adeney, cellist Kathryn Close and French horn Lauren Manuel. Photo © Sarah Marshall

Chief Executive Craig Whitehead said the QSO was excited for the 2021 season after what has been a challenging year. “During 2020, we have been extremely disappointed that we have been unable to deliver live concerts to the people of Queensland, however we’ve created a fantastic range of online content from musicians’ homes, backyards, parks and playgrounds, playing all sorts of music, from Bach to Baby Shark, an epic anthem collaboration with the Gold Coast SUNS and the Brisbane Lions and of course at the AFL Grand Final,” he said. We know that nothing can stop the music of QSO and our Season 2021 will celebrate all that is joyous, uplifting and new. The diverse line-up for 2021 shows again Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s commitment to being an Orchestra for Everyone.”

“As I reflect on the past year, I am struck by how universal our experience has been,” said QSO Concertmaster Warwick Adeney. “We have each encountered frustration, sadness, and longing. For us at QSO, we were devastated to miss so much of our planned 2020 concert season. There is no doubt it has been a challenging time, and yet amidst the yearning to fill the concert hall again, we have told new stories, and explored new ways of making and sharing music.”

Currently between Music Directors, the 2021 season will see conductors, mostly from around Australia, lead the orchestra. The season opens in February with Dane Lam conducting a program of ‘QSO Favourites’, featuring music chosen from audience feedback, including Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture, the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and Ravel’s Bolero. Lam returns to conduct the QSO in September in a program that brings together Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto – with Queensland-born pianist Jayson Gillham as the soloist – alongside a brand new commission by the winner of QSO’s 2019 Compose Program, Sebastian Lingane.

“Sebastian Lingane is an extremely talented first year Queensland Conservatorium of Music composition student who received the Certificate of Distinction in the inaugural QSO Compose – Symphony for Tomorrow program in 2019,” the QSO’s Director of Artistic Planning Tim Matthies told Limelight. “QSO will commission Sebastian to write a new work giving audiences the opportunity to hear an outstanding composer at the beginning of his career.”

Conductor Laureate Johannes Fritzsch conducts three programs across the season, beginning with Ravel’s La Valse and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in February. He’s joined by Perth-based organ virtuoso Joseph Nolan in April for Poulenc’s Organ Concerto in G minor, on a program alongside Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Fritzsch returns in August for a program that will include Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6.

Conductor – and Sydney Symphony Orchestra Principal Cello – Umberto Clerici joins the QSO and host Guy Noble for a ‘landscape’ themed Music on Sundays concert at the end of February. Musical Landscapes will feature Warwick Adeney as soloist in Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending alongside movements from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No 1, Smetana’s The Moldau and more.

Elena Schwarz. Photo © Priska Ketterer

Elena Schwarz takes to the podium in March for Stravinsky’s 1919 Suite from The Firebird, Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz and – with pianist Piers Lane – Liszt’s Piano Concert No 1.

Nicholas Buc conducts a program of film music in April, featuring music from Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Bruce Rowland’s music from The Man From Snowy River and Pinar Toprak’s music from Captain Marvel.

Benjamin Northey joins the QSO for two concerts next year, conducting two of the orchestra’s three new commissions. Earlier in the year he will lead the premiere of Gordon Kerry’s new Sinfonia Concertante for Flute, Clarinet and Orchestra – featuring the QSO’s Alison Mitchell on flute and Irit Silver on clarinet – alongside Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night Overture and the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

William Barton William Barton. Photo supplied

In June, Northey returns to conduct a new work by didgeridoo virtuoso William Barton – who will also be the soloist – alongside Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman and Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony. “William Barton has had a 20-year working relationship with the QSO; this work will be his first full-length solo orchestral commission and feature him as a singer and didgeridoo soloist alongside electronics,” Matthies said. “QSO will partner with ABC Classic to record all three commissions, giving broader reach through radio and online distribution and hopefully lead to other performances of the work nationally and internationally.”

Max McBride conducts music inspired by Shakespeare in May’s Music on Sundays concert, with soprano and Opera Queensland Young Artist Rebecca Cassidy joining the orchestra for Schubert’s An Sylvia and the Willow Song from Verdi’s Otello, alongside other Shakespearean works such as Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Guy Noble will both host and conduct May’s Musical Theatre Gala, featuring soprano Lorina Gore, tenor Simon Gleeson, and music from The Phantom of the Opera, Carousel, Les Misérables, Frozen and Chess. Noble will also lead August’s Music on Sundays concert Around the World, with a program spanning Sibelius’ Finlandia to Joe Hisaishi’s music for the film My Neighbor Totoro, by way of Peter Sculthorpe’s Small Town.

Alexander Briger conducts the QSO in May, pairing Brahms’ Second Symphony with Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C with oboe virtuoso Diana Doherty as the soloist, and in October in a concert of Sibelius and Beethoven, featuring violinist Grace Clifford performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto.

Benjamin Bayl joins the QSO for a Music On Sundays concert in July that explores musical inventiveness, from Haydn to Debussy, including QSO Principal Tuba Thomas Allely performing Samuel Jones’ Concerto for Tuba.

Ludovic Morlot. Photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke

French maestro Ludovic Morlot – making his QSO debut – brings the season to a close with concerts in November and December. In a Music on Sundays concert celebrating folk song – hosted once more by Guy Noble – Morlot conducts Bartók, Debussy, Brahms and Copland, with QSO cellist Hyung Suk Bae the soloist in Dvořák’s Silent Wood. Morlot then caps off the year with soprano Emma Pearson in Strauss’ Four Last Songs on a program alongside Debussy’s La Mer.

With the exception of Pinar Toprak in the film music concert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – who co-wrote the music for Frozen with Robert Lopez – in May’s musical theatre concert, women composers appear to be largely absent from the program, particularly compared with some of the other recently announced orchestral seasons. Matthies told Limelight that Maria Grenfell’s 2004 work River Mountain Sky, while not listed in the season brochure, will appear in the Musical Landscapes concert and that this “continues QSO’s 2020 focus on Australian female composers with Melody Eötvös (world premiere of Hidden Wiring in the season opening concert) and Catherine Milliken.”

“QSO is also partnering with ABC Classic on a long-term recording project of Australian female composers, including a special broadcast project for 2021 International Women’s Day, and follows recordings made in 2019 of music by Miriam Hyde and Margaret Sutherland,” he said.

The QSO has also booked more conductors named Benjamin for the 2021 season than conductors who are women. “We approached a number of female conductors we had hoped would work with the QSO in 2021, in addition to Elena Schwarz,” Matthies said. “However, this was not possible due to the impact of COVID-19 international border closures and travel restrictions.”

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